Wednesday, 01 July 2009 20:35

Second Opinions

Some of the deepest spiritual literature being written today is actually coming out of the psychoanalytic tradition. Since the days of Freud, several great sages have emerged in that tradition, who have made it truly a mystical path. The writings and anecdotes in this large body of literature that has emerged are often unintended recapitulations of the great teaching tales from the Sufi tradition, from the tradition of Zen stories and koans, and the wisdom stories of the Hasidim and other traditions.


I was reminded of a story I read recently about a great psychoanalyst-mystic, named Wilfred Bion, who was supervising another young analyst who was dealing with a psychotic patient. The younger analyst was complaining that he didn’t know how to help the patient deal with his symptom.

Apparently, the guy would be fast asleep at night and suddenly wake up terrified that he wasn’t getting enough sleep, and he would get up and turn on the light to make sure he was still asleep in bed. And Bion’s reply was: “Well everybody’s entitled to a second opinion.”

It reminded me of another story, one in the Sufi tradition, about a famous, hysterical spiritual teacher, named Mullah Nasr Eddin, who was made famous in the anecdotes of many modern Sufi teachers. Gurdijeff used him often as an example.

Mullah Nasr Eddin was walking on the edge of a pit near his home one evening, and he stumbled and fell into the pit. As he lay at the bottom, he suddenly got terrified that he had been mortally injured and that he was dying. And he was afraid his body would never be found. And this fear grew in him till he got to the point that he finally stood up and ran to his house. He woke up his wife and pointed outside and screamed: “I’m in the pit! I’m dead!” And he ran back into the pit and lay down again to finish going through his death process.

Meanwhile, in the house, his wife of course started screaming and crying: “My husband’s dead!”

People from the neighborhood rushed in to help. “How do you know he’s dead?” they asked.

“Well, he told me! He just came from the pit.”

This story, of course, contrasts with how Ramana Maharshi went through his death experience. Ramana didn’t ask for a second opinion, and he didn’t go for help, and so he made it to enlightenment.

So, the moral is, your two choices are hysteria—and/or psychosis—or enlightenment. And the whole question revolves around whether you need a second opinion.

But this is what the ego does; it’s always, in every relationship, asking for the opinion of the other: “Am I OK? Am I loveable? Am I alive or dead? Am I a man or a woman? Am I good or bad?” All these questions haunt the ego.

And the ego keeps on asking until it provokes the answer that it is afraid it is going to hear. And then it’s over. The ego moves on to find yet another opinion. This is the destiny of the ego, by keeping on asking for second opinions, third opinions, and on and on.

So what we’re doing in the meditative state is trying to get to the point where we’re not asking any voice to give us an opinion of about how we are, or who we are, or what we are.

But the problem is that as soon as you get to such a very high meditative state, and you are very blissful, then a voice comes to you and says, “Hey, you’re doing pretty good!”

And of course you suddenly lose your bliss and instead you start enjoying your opinion of the bliss. And then you want a second opinion. The bliss by then is long gone, and you are back in the ego vexation again.

So if you can only withhold the urge to get an opinion about how you’re doing, you’ll go all the way to liberation. So next time you are meditating, and the voice starts to give you an opinion of how you are doing, don’t listen, don’t buy into it, and don’t worry about whether you’re doing well or not.

Because the truth is, you don’t even exist. The ego is only an opinion that it exists. Without such an opinion, it dissolves. Don’t even hold the opinion that you don’t exist. It is only that opinion that gives the illusion that there is an ego at all. Even a non-existent ego is an illusion.

When there are no opinions at all—neither a second opinion nor even a first opinion—then the real Self emerges.

And the Self is simply the flame of love, the Divine Presence of God. It is the same as the metaphor in Torah of the burning tree that Moses finds. That’s the truth for each of us, if we don’t have an opinion about it.

Otherwise, the opinion will put out the fire or we will hide from the flame. We will want to run away from it. Because all opinions die in that Flame.

But that’s what we really are: That Supreme Love.

There are many stories that say: “You can’t achieve enlightenment until you have this burning love of God.” But the truth is that it’s already there, and the love is God. It’s not that it has to be a love for God, in duality, because we don’t need God’s opinion either. It’s a matter of simply realizing that that’s what you are, here and now.

There’s a burning energy of bliss, of infinite love. And this tree that’s burning is the Tree of Life. It is pure life energy. And if we don’t interfere with it, and if we don’t take a dualistic position in relation to it, then it just burns away the ego completely. And divine love is all that remains.

And you are That, the eternal Flame.
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